Title: A Diamond in the Dust
Author: Frauke Bolten-Boshammer
Published: November 1st 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Non Fiction, Biography, Memoir
Rating: 4 stars
The powerful true story of how one woman turned outback dust into a diamond empire
Within minutes of landing in Kununurra, Frauke Bolten had made up her mind to get on a plane back home to Germany. It was 1981 and the dusty frontier town was no place for a woman. However, Frauke stayed, determined to help her husband carve out a new life farming. Tragedy struck just three years later when Friedrich took his own life and she was left to raise their family alone.
Twenty-six years after she sold her first necklace off the back porch, Kimberley Fine Diamonds in Kununurra is now home to one of the world’s largest collections of Argyle pink diamonds, with a client list that includes Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Frauke is credited for not only pioneering an industry, but for putting the tiny outback town and its precious diamonds on the map.
A Diamond in the Dust is a tale of love and loss, hardship and heartache, but ultimately the inspiring story of how a young girl from Germany overcame tragedy to pioneer a diamond empire in one of the most unforgiving terrains on earth.
‘People assumed I had absolutely no idea. They thought I was just the little German housewife who cooked for people on the farm. They underestimated me’.
These words come directly from Frauke Bolten-Boshammer, who is the subject of the memoir, A Diamond in the Dust. Frauke is also the co-narrator of this book which she shares with Sue Smethurst, a senior journalist. A Diamond in the Dust is a very accessible non fiction title, reminding the reader of what it means to be human and survive life’s knocks.
When German born Frauke Bolten arrived in the one of Australia’s most remote locations, Kununurra, which borders the NT and WA, she knew her life was going to be forever changed. This young mother of three had already survived time in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), but what she now faced in Australia was something entirely different altogether. Frauke soon learnt of the challenges of living in remote Australia. From farming failures, to threats from Mother Nature and learning to live alongside some the world’s deadliest creatures, Frauke lived to tell the tale. Amongst the daily struggles just to survive, the family faced incredible loss, many lows and the sense of isolation that comes not only from living in the Kimberley, but the distance between their ancestral home in Germany. But Frauke is a pioneer and an entrepreneur. She begins a lucrative business selling diamonds from her backyard to tourists. Eventually this leads to the establishment of her very own diamond empire that specialises in rare pink diamonds. Through it all, Frauke and her family, grow and prosper, but they also are delivered some serious blows. A Diamond in the Dust charts one staunch German woman’s pure grit and determination to prosper in a land that can swallow you whole.
Reading A Diamond in the Dust by Frauke Bolten-Boshammer and Sue Smethurst is a little like being the observer while someone puts on a family projector. Reel upon reel of vivid images of Frauke’s life appeared before my eyes, as I placed my myself in her shoes. Frauke’s journey begins as a young girl in Germany. The book charts her childhood briefly, along with her early career, her courtship to her husband Friedrich, their move to Rhodesia, the family’s return to Germany and eventually their brave move to Kununurra. Each scene in Frauke’s life is well told, so this is an ideal memoir for those who are just starting out to explore non fiction titles.
What I enjoyed the most about A Diamond in the Dust was the fish out of water feeling expressed by Frauke. Her husband is determined not to fail in his new life in Australia, there is no option for him to return to Germany defeated. While Frauke’s young children relish in their new outback life, their mother struggles. We learn a great deal about the migrant experience in Australia. Frauke explains how she experienced language barriers, acclimatising to the heat, difficulties in obtaining food and services and their ignorance in terms of agricultural techniques suitable for Australia. What also pulled me in were the little flourishes on the Bolten’s German background. I loved hearing about the traditional cooking, dish preparation, customs, Christmas celebrations and Frauke’s propensity to open her home to many (including Hollywood stars). She is clearly a generous and giving woman.
What also made this book so genuine were the scenes where Frauke described unwelcome intruders, such as snakes, or a crocodile that was chased out of the house, it was quite unbelievable! It also gives the reader a very conclusive understanding of what everyday life would be like in such an inhospitable land.
Where A Diamond in the Dust succeeds is in its side focus on mental health in rural areas. We learn how suicide does not discriminate and touches the young and old, both male and female in the outback. I hope drawing attention to this through her own personal and painful experiences, Frauke can open up essential channels of conversation that should occur around this vital area of need.
On a different note, I was taken aback by Frauke’s establishment of her diamond business. She truly is a woman to aspire to and her ingenuity meant she soared, high above anyone’s expectations. She is incredibly influential and an excellent figurehead for the Kununurra community and the surrounding Kimberley region.
The only drawback of A Diamond in the Dust that I feel I must highlight is the layout of the book. I welcomed the personal photographs included which added another visual layer to the unfolding life story. However, their particular placement in the text meant that it ruined some of the unfolding story for me, some life events were covered in these photographs which I actually had not read about yet in the memoir, so it was spoiler! Save viewing the photographs until the end!
Frauke Bolten-Boshammer is an everyday hero and we need more books about life’s pioneers. My heartfelt appreciation to Frauke and Sue Smethurst for scripting this excellent memoir on life, love, loss, survival and faith.
A Diamond in the Dust by Frauke Bolten-Boshammer with Sue Smethurst was published on 1st November 2018 by Simon & Schuster. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty & Lace and Simon & Schuster. To read the original review on the Beauty & Lace website please visit here.
A Diamond in the Dust is book #3 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge